Cost of Complete Streets: .006%

Wisconsin Bike Fed
 
One of the arguments for repealing Wisconsin’s successful Complete Streets law is that it is adding to the cost of road projects.

Well, the official numbers are in and the answer is it is adding costs… to the tune of all of .006%. That’s right. You can read that number not as “six percent,” not as “six-tenths of one percent”, not even as “six one-hundredths of one percent,” but as “six-one-thousandths of one percent.”

The highly respected and nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau in a paper that came out just last week estimated the costs of the program at $190,000 a year in an overall state transportation budget that runs about $3,250,000,000 annually.

It turns out you would have to eliminate some 3,578 programs of that size in order to make up the $680 million annual deficit the DOT is projected to be running in what it needs to keep up with all the state’s transportation needs.

And, in fact, costs may actually be higher if the program is eliminated. Retrofitting streets and roads with bicycle or pedestrian facilities when a need is determined after a project is built is much more expensive than doing it at the time of reconstruction.

And that’s just the actual construction costs. What if we dig deeper? Smart Growth America reports that they found $18 million in annual savings from fewer crashes, injuries and deaths in just the 37 Complete Streets projects they studied.

Moreover, the SGA found that complete streets treatments increased property values. To quote the report:

“We found that employment levels rose after Complete Streets projects—in some cases, significantly. Communities reported increased net new businesses after Complete Streets improvements, suggesting that Complete Streets projects made the street more desirable for businesses. In eight of the ten communities with available data, property values increased after the Complete Streets improvements.”

So, let’s recap.

Complete Streets have been shown to cost all of six one-thousandths of one percent of the state transportation budget.

They save money over retrofitting later on.

They result in savings in the costs of deaths, injuries and property damage avoided because streets are safer for everyone.

They probably add to property tax revenues because of increased values and sales and income tax revenues due to more businesses and jobs along them.

And, so it’s good fiscal policy to eliminate Complete Streets because…???

The vote on Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate the state’s Complete Streets policy may happen this week. Please share this analysis with the members of the Joint Finance Committee.

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About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

One thought on “Cost of Complete Streets: .006%

  1. I wonder what the long term impacts that decision will have on tourism. I am sitting in a rented vacation home as I write this. The decision to come here was partly based on the bike friendly atmosphere in Ozaukee county. I took my son on a ride today and we were able to combine light traffic secondary roads, paved shoulders, bike lanes and the Interurban Trail into a nice safe riding loop. In the future, am I going to have to look to Iowa or Michigan to provide this kind of opportunity. I can only say/-I hope not.

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